By John Helsley
follow me on twitter @jjhelsley
So the Big 12 basketball coaches have spoken, albeit silently, by vote.
And while I completely concur they know exponentially more about the game than I ever will, I’m calling them out for their preseason poll.
Since this is an OSU blog, let’s start with the Cowboys, who were picked for eighth place. Too low.
I understand the focus on the loss of James Anderson and Obi Muonelo, the team’s leading scorers and unquestioned leaders. Anderson was the conference Player of the Year and Muonelo was the league’s biggest matchup nightmare.
Those guys will be missed.
But there’s plenty in place, with the Cowboys, to expect more than eighth place.
Soon, you’ll be hearing about Keiton Page’s summer of shape, how he’s transformed his body and upgraded his quickness and stamina and should be ready to lead this team in transition.
You already know about Matt Pilgrim, who was a beast down the stretch in the Big 12 and should only be better as a more confident and secure player. Marshall Moses returns, too, and provided a glimpse of hope to an otherwise disappointing season with a nice outing in the NCAA Tournament loss to Georgia Tech.
You know, too, about Ray Penn and Nick Sidorakis and Fred Gulley. Penn, by the way, is healthy.
What you don’t know, and the league’s coaches apparently don’t know either, is that the new faces have bolstered the team’s overall talent and depth.
Markel Brown, the Player of the Year in Louisiana, should be an impact player as a freshman. Darrell Williams gives the Pokes another big body for the paint, a luxury they just didn’t have a year ago. Cowboys coaches would ideally like to redshirt freshman Michael Cobbins and add bulk to his thin frame, but his skills may force them to reconsider. And don’t forget JP Olukemi, who arrived in January and drew raves in practices, and is now ready to bring his slashing style to the floor.
There’s talk, too, that center Jarred Shaw has improved dramatically. And Roger Franklin and Reger Dowell are still around. Only freshman Brian Williams, rehabbing from offseason surgery, is out the picture for this season.
Yes, there’s no obvious scoring threat, like Big Game James and Obi provided a year ago, although Brown averaged nearly 30 points as a prep senior.
But the strength of this team will be its versatility. This is Travis Ford’s kind of team, one that’s athletic and deep and can play fast on both ends of the floor.
Will they win the Big 12? Likely not.
But will they finish eighth? I say no; no way.
K-State is a solid pick for No. 1. But Kansas gets two first-place votes on reputation alone and finishes second in the voting. Baylor will challenge for the championship and should have been No. 2, not No. 4.
And A&M and Tech ahead of OSU, please.